Thursday, November 30, 2006

My super-cool secret pal...

Dear Denim Jumper Secret Pal, you are the greatest!

I got a package! Green Tea (which my children loathe, so I don't have to share woohoo), a very cute door hanger made of Christmasy-smelling leaf-shaped danglies (is that cloves? cinnamon?), and a bar of organic Chocolove.

I like chocolate, who doesn't? I opened the bar and started eating immediately, washing it down with my coffee. The kids wanted to try a piece, so I shared, but since it was dark chocolate they didn't ask for any more. I ate half the bar like a half-starved crocodile. Then it sat on the kitchen counter. I was busy cleaning and stuff, doing my daily routine, and every so often I'd break off a small piece of the chocolate on the way by.

I am so so sorry for wolfing down that first half. Savoring small pieces was the way to go. I've never had much chocolate besides the Hershey's variety sugar-laden stuff, so I didn't know any better. But this rich and bold, yet strangely delicate chocolate has shown me the error of my ways. I have recognized my sin and repent. Deliver us from Hershey's, for thine is the true flavor of chocolate.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I've been avoiding you...

I've been avoiding this blog for a couple of weeks. I do have good reasons. Mostly because I am participating in a winter secret pal gift swap over at TDJ and haven't wanted to give away any info that might link a gift, card or email to me. Then tonight I just remembered that I couldn't really say anything that would effect whether I'm discovered or not. Either she'll figure out it's me or she won't. So I have returned to blog my meaningless ramblings.

This last week or two, I have had so much fun picking gifts for my secret pal. I've spent well over the $15 minimum, but still feel like I don't have quite enough stuff to send to her. I hope she's happy with the few things I've chosen, but if you think it's hard buying for someone in your family, it's even harder buying for someone you don't know at all. I'm just not creative enough to envision someone's personality and choose The Perfect Gift for them, so am sticking to things that she said she likes. I'm sure she'll like it, but I really wanted her to be overjoyed.

And I am waiting with uncontainable impatience for my own gift box to arrive. It's just like being a kid again, not knowing what you're going to get but knowing for sure it's going to be special. I can't even remember the last time I was given a real gift. My mom buys me Christmas and birthday presents, but usually it's something I've been bitching about not having for months, or something completely practical like a jacket or something. When Vic and I exchange gifts, it's usually something practical, and almost always something that really benefits both of us. Even when he bought me the sewing machine, it was still with a promise that he would have mended shirts, soft new bathrobes and lounge pants tailored to fit perfectly. The box I have coming now is filled with things picked specifically for me, based on what someone thinks I will like. Just because. Just for me. Oh I just can't wait!

Must.. stop.. knitting...

I've been knitting like crazy for a week. I started a stocking hat for Riley with Caron Bliss in snow white. I'm working on a sweater for Chad with Bernat Soft Boucle in moss (my mom says this is too girly for him, but he'll love it). They're not fancy yarns but about the best I can afford. And the Caron Bliss is soooo soft and fuzzy! I'm doing some practice-knits for scarves for the girls, toying with different edging.

I'm crocheting a stuffed animal for Chad and an afghan for a friend's baby.

I'm sewing pink nightgowns for the girls and new traditional pajamas for Chad, which will be his first pair. He's been sleeping in the tight-fitting knit pajamas or thermal tops and bottoms since he was too big for footie jammies. Actually, he'd still be sleeping in those except he's grown too tall for his 10's and is not nearly big enough around for 12's. So.. I sew. I'm also making a sleeper, a fleece wintersuit and edging a baby blanket for the aforementioned baby (he's very preemie, so I know his parents will have a hard time dressing the little guy). I was working on a skirt, blouse, and alterations on half a dozen other things for myself, but have put that off till I'm done with my other projects. I'm hoping for sometime next spring.

I keep sneaking away to knit just two more rows on the hat for Riley. Just two rows, knit a row then purl one. That's all. It's going on 3am and I'm only sort of tired. I just keep thinking of all I have to accomplish before Christmas. Then again, if I keep this up I may be in a loony bin by then.

But oh.. I'd have all the time in the world to knit then wouldn't I?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Dodgeball Rocks!...

I know there are a lot of recent public school banning s of dangerous activities (like tag???). I've heard a few comments about dodgeball being a source of segregation and an excuse for the bigger and more popular kids to pick on the smaller, less popular kids. I agree with all that. But remembering dodgeball always makes me smile.

It was raining outside, so we had an "inside day" for gym class. We had large gym classes with 75-90 students. There was a male coach and a female coach, so the locker rooms could be supervised and the class didn't become completely out of control. Of course, the female coach never left her office in the locker room and lots of nasty things happened in there all the time, but I'm sure their intentions were good, right? On inside days, the gym was divided into two parts with a huge curtain hanging from the ceiling, with different activities going on in each area. On this particular day, our choices were volleyball and dodgeball.

All the girls in the class went to the volleyball side, by "choice" of course, where the female coach was managing games. I hated volleyball, so I went to the dodgeball side. To tell the truth, I assumed there would be at least a few girls over there and may have stayed and played sucky volleyball had I known I would be alone with all those jerks. After you cross the curtain, though, you're stuck. And I'd already been spotted by the -slightly amused- coach. The fact that he found humor in me choosing to play dodgeball irritated me. I was not a particularly athletic person, but I was healthy and not afraid to break a nail or mess up my hair by running or jumping.

The coach started dividing people into two teams. He nobly announced that he would do the picking, so nobody had hurt feelings by being picked last. He then proceeded to pick his favorites first, those boys who played football, the wrestlers, etc. I was one of the last 3 to be picked off and the numbers were uneven, so he decided to stick an extra person on my team, saying, "I'll give you guys the odd man out, since you have a girl on your team." I guess I was having a bad day, because I went off on the coach. I yelled right in his face, "How dare you assume I can't play as well as these losers?" I told him I could throw and catch a ball just as good as any boy and could probably dodge better. I don't really remember everything I said in that brief bitchfest, but I ended it with, "You sexist asshole!"

The wrestlers and football players, who answered to this same coach during their sport season, stood in shock. The coach regained his composure and replaced his own shocked look with the former smug amusement. "Well," he said, chuckling, "We'll just see." I never tried so hard at anything in gym class more than that game. We stomped them. I wasn't the last one standing or anything, but I was one of the last five on my team, and we won. I was sweating and beaming with triumph and flashed the coach an "I told you so" look on my way to the showers.

I used to say that I earned the coach's respect that day, since he was nice to me from that point on. He said hello in the halls. He never questioned anything I did in gym class again, even when I opted for weightlifting over the giggly, girly cliquefest that the female coach called aerobics. The truth is, he fell back on the common defense of Shut Up And She Won't Bitch Anymore. It didn't matter though, because that event was a turning point for me in high school. I surprised myself by standing up to an authority, and found it was a whole lot easier to stand up to other students. Who knows what would have happened if I never found my voice.

Maybe I wouldn't be homeschooling now.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Homeschooling has taken over my home...

I'm always checking freecycle for stuff I might want. Nothing I need to have, really, but people give away all kinds of stuff and why not at least look if I end up finding something I could use, right? Tonight I saw a post offering 2nd and 3rd grade teaching materials, and just as I was composing the email to this woman about how happy I would be to take them off her hands, I realized I don't have any room to store one more book in my home.

About a year ago, Vic built me a bookshelf to keep all the "homeschool stuff." I had so much fun loading the shelves and rearranging things. First based on what I didn't want Riley to touch, then as she got older, based on grade level per shelf, then subject matter. Since then, the bookshelf has become overloaded. Things are stacked on top of the bookshelf. Things are stacked in front. Books and games have taken over the kids' computer desk nextdoor to the bookshelf. Stacks and piles of books, papers to be checked, teachers references, and worksheets all over my own computer desk across the room. Reference materials in the kitchen. Letter blocks and various manipulatives on the shelves in the laundry room. I just bought 4 new workbooks and some flash cards last night. Homeschooling is everywhere. When the hell did this happen? Last year I was content with a bookshelf.

I live in a tiny little house, much too small for my Family O' Five in the first place, and space is always an issue. I have no decent place to sew, so my sewing desk is squeezed into a corner in my bedroom, leaving only enough space for me to sit between it and the bed. My crochet/knitting stuff used to be in a wrapping paper box next to the couch, but has since spread to the top of said box, and the top and underneath the end table near it. The computer I'm rebuilding is sitting in the entryway waiting for someone to trip over it and break something - either the computer or something on their own bodies. And Vic whines that he needs a garage because he doesn't have room for his hobbies in his 12x10 shed. Ha!!

I keep saying I need to organize stuff, and that's part of the problem. I'm not sure how somone so fixated on doing things just so can be so lazy and disorganized about everything, but I am. Beyond organizing, though, I think I just need to stop collecting stuff! I just find it so hard to resist a good deal on yarn, fabric, or homeschooling supplies. I will use it all... uh.. at least I think I will. Well I could, in theory...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Is there a support group for control freaks??...

There was a fantastic thread over at The Denim Jumper about the contradictory situation with unschooling while you yourself area a control freak. I need help. I have serious control issues. People are usually not control freaks all their lives, but instead become that way over time. Usually the need for control stems from some kind of insecurity. In my case, I think I was always this way.

I cannot honestly remember a time in my life when I wasn't allowed to do what I wanted. Don't get me wrong, we were poor and I was told "no" several times when it came to the purchase of silly things I didn't really need. But I was an only child. I was the first in the Wave of Grandchildren in my family. I don't know how it happened that I was the favorite among older family members since I was rather hyperactive and a very homely child, but I certainly was the favorite just the same. Being the oldest cousin at family gatherings (and those gatherings were numerous), I was the Leader of the Band. In other words, if I really wanted something and there was no critical reason I shouldn't have it, it was mine.

Now that I'm a grownup, I find my desire to have my own way getting between me and my family, and even screwing up plans for other things I want. I want my kids' learning to be self-directed. I want to be a fascilitator and not a teacher.

Tonight I brought out all the books I got at the library today to let the kids dig through them. They were excited about the "Poop" book, but rather than just let them look at it, I had to read it to them - in my painfully monotone reading voice. Cadence was soon bored and Chad was only half-listening. We put it away and I backed off (a very deliberate action by the way). I had picked up 5 Get Ready, Get Set, Read books - 3 with different letter groups (-an, -ip, -ub) and two with stories that brought all those sounds together. I went off to start dinner and when I came back in I found Cadence reading one of the bring-it-together books and Chad helping her with the harder words. Instead of being delighted at Chad's willingness to help his sister, or being satisfied that Cadence was learning by reading more challenging stuff, I freaked out.

"You have to read these books first," I told her, handing her the letter group books. "These two are for after you've had practice with the others." I took the other books away from her and put them away. They're special books, you know. I didn't realize my mistake then. I didn't realize it when I saw her disappointed face as she started to read The Tan Can that she'd already read once this evening. I didn't even realize it five minutes later when she got bored with reading and went to play in her room. It wasn't until long after when I noticed The Tan Can stuck with the other early readers back in the library bag, where I like to keep books until we're "ready" to read them.

Holy Hell.. I am so stupid sometimes. I need to get some control of myself instead of trying to control everyone else. I need to learn to let my kids learn for crying out loud and stop trying to make them learn. So starting tomorrow morning I'm hanging a special shelf for library books (so I can be satisfied they're staying seperate and will make it back to the library together) out in the open and let them pick whatever book they want. I may even head up to the hardware store to get supplies for a facing-out shelf so they're more visible. I hereby swear to pacify my control needs with choosing books I think they should read (based on our current units or whatever), but letting them read the damn things on their own. I will let them start when they're ready and stop when they're finished.

Baby steps. If I get this part down I might be able to let them put food on their own plates. Man, this condition is just looking worse and worse all the time.

A very quiet Saturday...

The kids spent the night with Grandma last night and I haven't gone to get them from her house yet. Vic is working today. I had to give him a ride to work by 8:30 which kind of spoiled my ideas of sleeping in without the kids here, but I had things to do anyway.

One of those things was the library. We were supposed to return all the books on Tuesday, followed by a well-thought out study list here on my blog, but with all the chaos this week that just didn't happen. I had planned to take the kids with me to the library today, but that was before the whole overnight at Grandma's thing came up. So I went alone. And it was wonderful.

I can't remember the last time I went to the library without the kids. It was quiet. I didn't have to tell anyone to stop running, or remember their inside voices, or please don't take all the books out of that shelf. I didn't have to apologize to any strangers. My kids aren't unruly, they're just excited to be at the library and go around behaving like.. well, excited children. I actually looked at books. I read the synopses. I browsed in the adult fiction section. It was so much fun I could hardly contain myself. I was probably there for an hour, all by myself. So, while the kids weren't there to choose their own books, I think I found quite a few they will enjoy, as well as a couple to be used with our learning this next week.

For our early human studies:
Usborne Starting Point History : Who Were the First People?
When Mamoths Walked the Earth - Caroline Arnold
(We'll have to get some more, but I can find them on Tuesday while the kids pick a few books of their own.)

For Chad, independent reading:
The Borrowers - Mary Norton
Abel's Island - William Steig

Early readers, fun stuff, read-alouds, and picture books:
Get Ready, Get Set, Read set 2
The Bear's Toothache - David McPhail
"Not Now!" Said the Cow - Joanne Oppenheim
Readers Digest Anthology : The World's Best Fairy Tales
Encyclopedia Brown's Book of Wacky Animals - Donald J. Sobol
Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable - Nicola Davies (I can't wait till the kids see this one!)

For me:
The Dark Tower I : The Gunslinger - Stephen King (I've actually read the 3rd of this series, but not any of the others, so I figured it was about time I read the whole thing.)
Of Human Bondage - W. Somerset Maugham

I enjoyed my solo library trip so much I think I will have to do it more often, once or twice a month maybe. It's not often I get to pick a book for myself without just grabbing the closest one and saying, "Let's go." I'm now enjoying my computer time without any noise at all in the house, and am pretty reluctant to get off here and go pick up my kids. Call it a vacation. Even for an hour.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Holy Crap!...

So I was wandering around like a crazy person this morning getting ready to go to this funeral. It was way too cold for a skirt or dress of any kind (not that I own many of those anyway), so I'd decided to just to jeans and a nice sweater. Unfortunately, I didn't have a nice sweater, and neither did any of my kids. So we piled everyone in the car and headed to the store.

Remember that friend of Vic's whose wife was in the hospital in pre-term labor? For the sake of clarity here, I will call the friend S and his wife J. Well, S's mom just happens to work at the Walmart near our house, and just happened to be running the register we just happened to go through on checkout. She asked if we'd talked to S today and I said no and asked how J was doing. She said, "Well, they did an ultrasound this morning. The baby passed. They're waiting for the doctor to get there so they can decide what the plan for delivery will be.."

I didn't hear anything else. I walked out of the store in a fog and sat silently halfway home. Finally, Vic asked me what the heck was wrong with me and I just completely lost it. Choking back angry tears, I went off about how they should have delivered that baby when she first went into labor, even though she was a bit early. They should have known the risks involved with stopping labor for days after the water broke. And why the hell weren't they using some kind of internal monitor or something so they could detect distress and deliver the baby right away. At this comment, Vic said, "What the hell are you talking about?!?"

Apparently, S's mom was talking about the baby passed the test. The test I didn't know about because Vic was the last one to talk to S when this 8-point test was discussed. They just did the ultrasound to check the baby's lungs, weight, etc.. and the baby passed the test. Needless to say, I spent the rest of morning and afternoon stewing of the tactlessness of S's mother saying (I swear in a sad, disappointed tone) that, "the baby passed."

J and S had a very small but otherwise healthy baby boy at 5 this evening, by cesarean. He's 4 pounds, 13 ounces but breathing well and holding his temperature. As long as he has no feeding troubles, they expect him to go home in a week or so.